Return of the Writing Exercise

Friday December 01, 2006 @ 12:08 PM (UTC)

Long long ago, when Faerye Net was young, I posted two different writing exercises, in which you, the readership, took part. (In the second one, I did not take part, because I was a frazzly-frazzle at the time.) One at least of ye missed these little games (and I think more), so I bent my brains to come up with a new one.

This one is based on a writing exercise from a high school English class: I will give you a beginning sentence, and you will write a story. Use it in quotes or not, mix it up a bit, whatsoever you please! Just enjoy doing a bit of freeform writing, and we’ll all enjoy seeing the different places in which we turn up, from the same four words: She died last week.

Mine is half-written already. I’ll post it as soon as it is done and someone else has posted theirs!


She died last week. I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

Curse you Nanofiction boy! Curse your terse ambiguity! Someday you will waste as much of your time as I have of mine!

She died last week. Gretel always seemed like a cat to me - her dubious stares, the way she used to curl up on Mama’s lap to sleep. Like a cat, she found somewhere safe to die - under the peppermint bark furnace in the corner of the basement. I can see her body from my cage, curled around its own bulk as if for another cat-nap.

She died helping me—she ate half of the sweets that the witch sent down to me each day, as well as the more pedestrian fare she was allotted as a serving girl. Her little body grew and grew, inflated, trying to find places to stow each new shipment of cake, of fudge, of cream-cheese frosted brownies and thick, sticky toffee. Finally it killed her. It will kill me too.

Now I have to eat it all myself - piles of Turkish Delight and sundaes, candied apples, cream-filled donuts, divinity, peanut butter brittle, truffles, eclairs. If the bowls aren’t empty, the witch turns her wand blindly upon my cage and shocks my pudgy body until I scream. I’ve started pouring out the hot chocolate and the ice cream on the far side of my cage. Of course she’s nearly blind, so she hasn’t noticed. In the night, or from the many naps I take - night and day barely matter to me, and any escape is welcome—I sometimes awake to find myself gnawing the metal bars, encouraged by the film of sugar my sticky fingers have left on them. The cage is the only thing in this house that isn’t edible. The only thing I want to eat.

It seemed so easy to deceive the witch while Gretel was alive. It always seemed that some opportunity would present itself, some way to distract or slay the witch that would leave the keys in Gretel’s hands. Instead, she passed a hundred opportunities to escape herself for my sake, and now she is dead and I am as good as dead. Any day now, the witch will lose patience, or I will give up my charade and let her feel my actual, chubby fingers. Any day.

Here comes the witch, still cursing Gretel for ‘running away’, still heaping my tray with disgusting sweets. She hears the thud and roll when a donut hole falls off and rolls behind the cage. She walks after it, and I am sure this is the end. She will feel my discarded meals on the floor, understand my duplicity, and prepare me for the feast. I will die, not with my heart shuddering to a stop in a warm corner like my sister, but screaming around a candied apple in the fire.

But the witch’s pointed shoe slips on a slick of melted ice cream, and she falls, her head crunching heavily on the sugar-lacquered gingerbread floor. The tray, finest peppermint bark, breaks on impact, as the macaroons, danishes, lady fingers and gingersnaps rain around the witch’s corpse.

I cry out feebly, as if Gretel will hear my glee and rise from her eternal sleep. The witch is dead! It is over! I will carry my sister’s body home, and reproach my parents with the sight of their children’s fate. I will drink water again, taste salt, eat anything, even grass, that is not sweet and cloying. I reach my chocolate-stained fingers through the bars, towards the key on the witch’s belt. I reach, but do not grasp. Even with my ‘finger’ stick, I cannot reach. My huge forearms will not pass between the bars, no matter how I push, no matter how I bruise them. I cry for a while, then curl up quietly, to starve myself to freedom or, perhaps, to die alone.

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